There’s an interesting, welcome trendlet happening in New York dance now—choreographers as curators. Danspace Project has engaged Ralph Lemon to curate i get lost (through February 6), the first of its “platforms” designed to elucidate a distinct artistic perspective and add contextualization; Juliette Mapp curates the second platform, Back to New York City (March 1-April 10). At The Kitchen, Jon Kinzel’s Responsible Ballet And What We Need is a Bench to Put Books On runs through January 30, and is curated by Sarah Michelson.
Kinzel returns to perform in New York after a hiatus of several years, so it’s interesting to see how his work has gapped the time. In past work, he was interested in the total theater environment, with a strong emphasis on design, and in Responsible Ballet this continues. The visual elements, by Kinzel and Alexandre Kourako, are simple—white tape stripes on The Kitchen’s black brick wall which, late in the work, are stripped dramatically from the walls, and a wooden box which hides the dancers but for their legs, effecting “offstage” and partially hiding them as they contribute to the sound.
Kinzel has gathered a tremendous cast that includes many “all stars” of contemporary dance (as well as himself): Hilary Clark, Jodi Melnick, Jeremy Pheiffer, Vicky Shick, and Christopher Williams. The dancers perform duets—one exits and the other continues with another partner, melting the segues. By including dancers with such distinctive, individual onstage personalities, it was a bonus that these aspects would manifest in the work: Shick’s knack for making the simplest movement rich; Clark’s flair for injecting drama into stasis; Williams’ kinetic dartiness; Melnick’s fragile but undeniable strength. Kinzel gave each duet a subtle but legible style, grading the quality and force of each pair’s interactions, blending modified gestures and big dynamics with economy.
The sound (by Fly Ashtray, Kinzel, and Vivian Stoll) ranges from industrial to ambient to folk song, including a humming massager and Clark’s miked breathing, with troughs of silence between sections. Karen Walcott designed the effective lighting, so important in this big, very black box theater. I can’t tell you what the title means, but hopefully we’ll have a chance to puzzle over Kinzel’s next one in the near future.